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Believing In The Game Plan

 The Cardinals will finally have a chance to game-plan fully with the regular season beginning this weekend against the 49ers.

The smile came quickly to Larry Fitzgerald, as if just the sound of the words "game-planning" was enough to bring him joy.

The Pro Bowl wide receiver simply said he was "happy" the Cardinals could finally get a little complex for a game.

"I am happy to be able to move around and do some different things, to not be so stationary and we can get to our Texas package and our no-huddle stuff," Fitzgerald said. "To do things we do well and things with which we flourish. I am looking forward to getting guys healthy and opening the playbook up."

Game-planning has been the big phrase around the Cardinals ever since their struggles against the Packers in the third game of the preseason. The Cards don't game-plan in the preseason. The Packers did, and left some Cards – including the head coach – a bit irritated that it skewed any comparison between the teams.

The simplistic way Ken Whisenhunt approaches the preseason has a solid foundation: He doesn't want the regular-season opponents to get any advantage, particularly Week One foe (and NFC West rival) San Francisco.

Those constraints are now gone with the 49ers' game finally on the doorstep.

"It's not our job to worry about what plays are called," running back Tim Hightower said. "(Sometimes) we get frustrated. Realistically, we do think (at times) we're not in the right formation or we don't have the right personnel (for a certain down-and-distance). But it comes down to you winning your battle."

Whisenhunt can relate, since he has already recalled his moments as a player in preseason games, when his coach – Joe Gibbs – would put basic formations out in key situations, leaving little room for first downs to be made.

 Whisenhunt even thought the change to the regular season helped with practice Monday, because "guys were more focused on what they were doing instead of never knowing, 'Where I am going to line up or what I am doing' until the play is called."

Defensively, the Cardinals are in the same situation. Defensive end Darnell Dockett downplayed the idea of game-planning, saying it was more about the defenders simply doing their jobs.

But safety Adrian Wilson estimated the defense only used about 20 percent in the preseason what they will run during the season.

"So we had guys on an island sometimes, in positions where they won't normally be," Wilson said. "Let the preseason be the preseason."

There will be more plays, more studying, more tweaks to the playbook. But it still comes down to execution.

"In a way you do look forward to game-planning because you can showcase what you can do," Hightower said. "But you can't get caught up into making excuses. We were 0-4 in the preseason, and we have to improve on that."

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